Not only are mountain ecosystems home to numerous animal and plant species, they also prevent avalanches and rockfalls, protect against soil erosion and attract visitors to Switzerland. We are researching these habitats to see how strongly they are reacting to climate change or new forms of land use.
The Alps cover around 60% of Switzerland. Their ecosystems provide habitats for many species of fauna and flora, but also serve mankind in many ways, for example helping to protect against avalanches and rockfalls or prevent soil erosion and snow slides. However, their contribution to a landscape that is considered aesthetically pleasing is a crucial factor for attracting tourists to mountain regions.
The main aspects of mountain forests - one of the most expansive types of Alpine ecosystem - we are investigating are: a) how they can best protect themselves against natural hazards today and in the future, and b) how the treeline is shifting. Our findings will form the bases of decisions made in forest management and natural hazard simulation programs. But we are also exploring habitats above the treeline, where we are especially interested in shifts in plant diversity brought on by climate change and what they mean for mountain ecosystems.
Focus WSL magazine Diagonal, 1/18: In SLF’s cold laboratory, researchers are experimenting with snow. Sometimes this tests not just the ability of their instruments and materials to function in the cold, but also their own.